Editors’ Note: This article has been corrected from an earlier version which misidentified the Brooklyn neighborhood where Ledger lived with Michelle Williams. We regret the error.
The actor Heath Ledger was found dead on the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 22, in a bed in a fourth-floor apartment at 421 Broome Street.
Months before, Ledger had broken up with his fiancee, Michelle Williams, with whom he had had a two-year-old daughter and a townhouse in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.
Little was known about the actor’s movements in the hours before he was found, at 3:36 p.m., in the bedroom of the loft apartment in Soho. The housekeeper in the apartment had assumed he was sleeping, and when a masseuse arrived for an appointment, the two sought him out, and the housekeeper found him dead, and called police immediately.
A police spokesperson has since confirmed that sleeping pills, prescribed to the actor, were found in the vicinty, along with other pills the nature of which had not yet been determined.
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Three hours later, as a little fewer than 200 people stood outside police barricades on the street below, the actor’s body was removed to a van headed to the medical examiner’s office.
Tuesday evening, police spokespersons said that neither the cause nor the time of death had been determined, and that foul play was not suspected but that an ongoing investigation had not yet ruled it out.
Ledger’s social life had become a matter of public interest rather recently when the police had come to 421 Broome Street, the actor having settled into a rather quiet, if not anonymous life in brownstone Brooklyn.
There, he and his fiancee, whom he had met as a costar in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, had joined in neighborhood protests against the planned development of a large swath of real estate known as the Atlantic Yards.
"My husband Heath and I moved to Brooklyn for light and space and air," she said in a statement supporting opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in May of 2006.
But by the end of 2007, Ledger was being connected publicly in the gossip columns with many of New York’s most ambitiously social set.
Early reporting on the New York Times blog, City Room, characterized the apartment on the fourth floor of 421 Broome Street as the home of actress Mary Kate Olsen; the references were later removed without explanation, and preliminary investigations by The Observer shed doubt on the prospect that Ledger had died in the young actress’ apartment.
Gustavo Medeiros, who lives in a loft on the fifth floor which he said he occasionally rents out as a party venue, said he had seen the actor around the building a few times but not in the past month, and never in the company of Ms. Olsen.
On Tuesday night, police said that an autopsy was scheduled for Jan. 23, which would lead to a determination of the time and cause of death of Heath Ledger.
Mr. Ledger, an actor from a young age, got his American break in the teen flick 10 Things I Hate About You, but became labeled a serious actor after his appearance in the fillm Brokeback Mountain, hailed by The Observer’s Rex Reed as an American masterpiece.
He made himself a New Yorker, settling in with Ms. Williams in a brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood and becoming an obsession with the locals, who were in turn flummoxed by the presence of a celebrity in the midst of an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn for its distance from the glitter and glamour of lower Manhattan.
He also became known throughout the international media for his unusual charm, which owed sometimes to his self-effacing, sometimes even dour outlook.
Of his role in the quirky Todd Haynes biopic of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There, he told a New York Times reporter late last year: "I can’t say I was proud of my work … I feel the same way about everything I do. The day I say, ‘It’s good’ is the day I should start doing something else.”
And later, of his role in the upcoming Batman movie, he told the reporter: "Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night … I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." "One night he took an Ambien," the reporter continued, "which failed to work. He took a second one and fell into a stupor, only to wake up an hour later, his mind still racing."